Sunday, 17 February 2008


There's a dog on my street with dementia.

A few times recently, I've arrived home to find this dog loping up the driveway from my garden out back. She gives me a baleful look as she passes me and then trots into the next driveway. Moments later she emerges in the driveway of the house beyond. This dog has forgotten where she lives.

The first time this happened, I caught up with her and read her tag and rang her owner. She lives about 20 houses down the street and has an infant who takes up all her attention. Apparently this dog is old and just doesn't recognise her home any more. This isn't just a stray - you can tell as soon as you see her. There's a look of dull panic in her eyes that I've seen in Mum's on occasion. This dog keeps in motion because she knows that something isn't right. There's a robotic quality to her relentless search for something she has forgotten. The normal doggy responses are missing: stop her and she stands unresponsive as you pet her, waiting to resume her search. Walk with her up the street and she tries every driveway along the way unless encouraged onwards. Her own home is greeted with no more enthusiasm than any other.

Meeting her again this week felt like a nudge from the universe.


Matt said...

Oh, Greg ... being a dog owner (3) and lover, that hit home with me. My parents are both gone, and I didn't see any (well, not much) dementia in them, but imagining one of my dogs - two of whom are advanced in age - become lost and disoriented, well ... a light bulb just went off above my head.

I'm glad your Mom is safe somewhere and not wandering around, not home in some way. Hug.

Greg said...

Hi again, Matt. You know, I posted that entry thinking "Dementia seems to be stalking me!". I didn't think how it might set off a light bulb in someone's head. I'm glad it gave you an insight, but don't worry yourself until it happens to one of your dogs. I've certainly never come across this before, so I don't know if it's all that common.

Mum DID have an episode where she wandered - onto a busy dual-carriageway with no pavement. That was last year and one of the more motivating episodes for me to intervene. Where she is now, she can't leave the front door without someone letting her out. She's been there for a month and a half and doesn't seem to have noticed, so I think her wandering is currently restricted to the corridor between her bedroom and the lounge.

Thanks for the hug, Mr Trans-Atlantic arms. Hugging you back and petting your dogs.

Matt said...

Greg, I hope this doesn't sound so morbid - but I'm glad that my parents have both passed. My Mom when she was 52 from cancer - very quickly, but painfully - and my Dad after 5 years of emphysema when he as 81. Dad did have some dementia, but not until the end. I live 1,700 miles from home and didn't see much of it, but the last time I saw him I had to say goodbye late in the evening, in the hospital, and he barely knew who I was. That was the first time in years that my brothers had seen me cry.

I'm glad that they didn't have to spend so much time not understanding what was going on. But in a sad way, I would have done everything to move back to Chicago and taken care of my Dad ... I hope my brothers understand that. It all happens too, too fast. My prayers that your Mom understands that you are taking care of her. I'm pretty sure she does.

Trans-Atlantic hug again. And the dogs offer their love and lots of sloppy kisses. They're funny that way.